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Swearinger says NFL rules made him hit Keller low

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The Miami Dolphins have lost tight end Dustin Keller for the year following a gruesome injury to his right knee. DJ Swearinger, the Houston Texans cornerback who delivered the hit to Keller, says the NFL rules forced him to make that hit.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has done everything it can to make the game safer by banning any sort nearly any sort of contact to the head.  In an era where the league is facing multiple lawsuits over the long term impacts from concussions, the NFL cannot allow players to hit each other in the head.  So, instead, you have guys going low, and attempting tackles to the legs.

In this league you've got to go low. If you go high you're going to get a fine. -Houston Texans CB DJ Swearinger on hitting Miami Dolphins TE Dustin Keller in the knee

Which leads to devastating injuries that cause players to see seasons, or possibly careers, ended.

Last night during the Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans game, we saw that exact situation.  Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller was in the flat when quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw him a pass.  In an attempt to either break up the play, or tackle Keller, cornerback D.J. Swearinger dove, catching Keller in the knee.  With all of his weight on the right leg, Keller fell one way while his lower leg and knee bent the other.  Keller was eventually carted off the field holding his right knee.

Today, we got word that the injury included torn ACL, PCL, and MCL ligaments and a dislocated knee.  The team also fears nerve damage to the knee.

Asked about the hit, Swearinger said after the game, "I was making a hit playing football. In this league you've got to go low. If you go high you're going to get a fine. I think I made the smartest play. I'm sorry it happened and I pray he has a speedy recovery."

He continued, stating, "The rules say you can't hit high so I went low and I'm sorry that happened. I would think you'd rather have more concussions than leg injuries. Leg injury, you can't come back from that. A concussion, you be back in a couple in a couple of weeks."

If they can protect defenders from low blocks, they should be able to protect offensive players. -Dolphins OT Tyson Calbo

Dolphins offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, who said something to Swearinger after the hit, was asked about that moment after the game. If I did (say anything to Swearinger) he wasn't listening. He was doing his little dance or whatever he was doing."

Clabo added that the league may need to consider a rules change, given that the hit Swearinger delivered is perfectly legal. "If they can protect defenders from low blocks, they should be able to protect offensive players from that type of play," Clabo explained.

Both Swearinger and Clab have valid points in this case.  With how worried the league is about anything high on the body, they are clearly teaching players to target the legs and knees.  That's a dangerous habit to start, given how quickly a player can be seriously - and permanently - injured with a hit to a fragile joint like the knee.

Will the league consider a change to protect a lower extremity?  If they do, where will hitting be allowed?

Whatever happens in the future, Keller will now face a long rehab as he tries to return from an extremely serious injury.

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